MABTON — Worried parents stood watch out front of Artz Fox Elementary and waited with an apprehensive breath, following a district-wide school lockdown which lasted about two hours, last week on Sept. 11.
Jennifer Cappa, along with other concerned parents, had been at the school prior to the 1:30 p.m. regularly scheduled dismissal. Some of them were informed about the preemptive safety measure as they attempted to pull into the pickup area and parking lots.
“This situation isn’t good for anyone. Especially when it comes to the children. But I mean they have the safe haven right here,” Cappa stated.
The mom of second grade student Layne Cappa, kept a vigilant eye out for a white Chevy Suburban with rusted hood which she heard was of possible police interest.
She revealed they had been involved in a previous lockdown situation while she was about four months pregnant at a Safeway in Seattle when Layne was just six-year’s old.
They were instructed to remain in the store aisle on their hands and knees over three hours while police apprehended an armed suspect.
Cappa knew her son would be reminded of that experience like it happened yesterday. And without question, Layne will be hungry and asking for her to fix him something once they get home, she acknowledged.
As moving clouds shielded the afternoon sun at times, voices from concerned parents inquiring with one another about the threat and unknown danger which targeted the community, filled the sidewalk speculation at 805 Washington Street.
Shortly after 2 p.m., school and law enforcement officials gathered at the elementary school to unlock the campus and coordinate the release of students in boarding and riding buses home and for an enormous guardian pickup which began around 3 p.m.
According to Yakima Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Casey Schilperoort, at 4:44 p.m. the suspect had been detained by Grandview Police.
“We do know from the witnesses, that he was armed and did shoplift some ammunition from the Blue Sky Market, made some comments, not threatening anybody, but he did make comments that spooked those high school kids that were there,” part-time Mabton Police Chief Steve Araguz confirmed.
The students immediately notified school officials and a lockdown was issued at 12:30 p.m.
The store, located at 340 North Street, is across from the district administration office and high school classrooms which prompted the emergency action.
Araguz said he was notified shortly thereafter and made his way out to Mabton. The Police Chief who splits time in the same leadership role for Granger, described how his modest department has grown from one to three police officers and soon to be four.
“With help from Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, Sunnyside PD, we secured the schools,” Araguz acknowledged.
He added that Phoenix Security armed security guards are at both Artz Fox Elementary and Jr./Sr. High schools.
“The threats were made to one individual and not to the schools,” Araguz stated.
Standing out front the elementary school monitoring the release of students, the Mabton Police Chief explained the lockdown was for two reasons.
“Threats to the student and the unknown threat the individual was posing at the Blue Sky Market.”
On Thursday, Sept. 12, Grandview Police Chief Kal Fuller responded by email that 21-year-old Mabton resident, Jose Javier Gonzalez, turned himself in at GPD without incident and was released into Mabton PD custody a short time later.
Araguz announced the investigation is still on-going and Gonzalez will be facing several misdemeanor charges and felony charges. He is currently housed at the Sunnyside City Jail and will be transferred to the Yakima County Jail. The 21-year-old has been cooperative throughout the investigation.